Will Donato is a force for good at his live shows at Southern California’s Inland Empire, where he’s been playing for years as a solo act and billed as Art of Sax. His latest CD puts some of that energy on display, especially on tunes such as “Will Call,” which Blake Aaron sends into warp drive with his blistering guitar solo. And “More Sway” booms with funk, a cool talk-box guitar intro and some note-bending, gut-busting sax.
But too often Donato gives up and travels to smooth-jazz clichéville. “Tropica” is Latin lite, while tepid covers of the Dramatics’ “Whatcha See Is Whatcha Get” and the Spinners’ “I’ll Be Around” miss their chance to light fuses under dusty standbys. Donato’s soprano sounds sweet on “Highway 111,” but overall it’s not enough to salvage this middle-of-the-pack effort.
Donato needs to inject more of his live energy into his recordings and ditch the very uncool sax-by-the-fireplace pic on the back cover. It worked well for John Tesh, but Donato simply predisposes listeners to expect syrupy and yucky sax groove that—to his credit—he only partly delivers on.